Appleton tips midfield trio to dominate

Lee Williamson. Picture: Steve Reid (122927-839)
Lee Williamson. Picture: Steve Reid (122927-839)

Michael Appleton has pinpointed the trio of midfield maestros he believes can dominate League One.

The Blues boss is adamant Brian Howard, Lee Williamson and Darel Russell have the potential to ensure his side are a force to be reckoned with this season.

Tuesday night’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy clash with Bournemouth marked the first time the threesome have been in midfield alongside each other.

Even then that lasted just 31 minutes before Russell dropped into the centre of defence to cover for the injured Paul Connolly.

Regardless, Appleton has seen enough to convince him they will be key players during the current campaign.

Skipper Howard, fit-again Williamson and newcomer Russell are all pencilled-in to start in Pompey’s midfield at Crawley on Sunday.

And, over the duration of the campaign, Appleton is confident the trio can rule the middle of the park.

He said: ‘It was good to get Lee on the pitch against Bournemouth.

‘As soon as he came on I must admit I felt a little bit more comfortable.

‘I was confident we had a little bit of experience, strength and character in there.

‘If we can get the likes of Brian, Lee and Darel in the midfield with one another we will start stronger.

‘Brian will eventually be very, very valuable for this football club.

‘But there are probably going to be two or three in there who are massively key players.

‘I think Lee is going to be another and if I can keep him fit and get him real match fitness, which we know he can get, he can be a key player.

‘The opposition see that and the likes of Jack Compton, Ashley Harris and Liam Walker, who can all play on the left-hand side, will complement those three.

‘If I was an opposition manager then I would be a little bit concerned as they can absolutely dominate on the day.

‘We just need to keep them fit.

‘And make sure that, hopefully, somewhere along the line, if we do come out of administration we can keep them here for the long term.’

The improving form of Howard remains a plus point for Pompey fans at present.

His stunning equaliser capped another fine performance from the captain, who also netted in the penalty shootout.

And Appleton is pleased with how the former Sheffield United man has settled.

He added: ‘I think Brian has done okay so far. He is adjusting.

‘He did better on Tuesday in terms of not taking as many touches and got a great goal, so I have got to be happy.

‘I think he is still coming to terms with this division.

‘Against Oldham they looked to stop the ball getting in to him.

‘What we have got to do is make sure if the opposition are stopping him getting on the ball, we get the ball into different areas of the field and more players have got to take responsibility.

‘As for his goal, I have seen him do that many times over the years.

‘I’m sure he will score three or four like that before it is finished.’